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Port Orchard overdue to replace aging police cruisers

City of Port Orchard officials have decided, for the past several years, to save money by keeping police vehicles longer than normal before replacement.

“What’s happened is that, when we should have replaced three cars, we replaced two,” said Alan Townsend, Port Orchard’s police chief.

“Last year, they just replaced one patrol car and one detective’s car,” he said. “That put us even farther behind on patrol cars.”

This year, the city must and buy and outfit two new patrol vehicles and one car for investigation.

Ideally, the department would like to replace the cars before they accumulate 100,000 miles, Townsend said.

But this year, it will replace one car with 140,000 miles, one with 127,000 miles and one with 125,000 miles.

The oldest was built in 2000, another in 2001 and the newest in 2002.

The city of Poulsbo recently faced a similar problem.

Typically, police there phased out cars after seven years or 70,000 miles. But budget constraints recently pushed the replacement threshold to eight years and 80,000 miles.

Now, the city may stop considering age as a factor and replace vehicles every 100,000 miles, said Bob Wright, a sergeant with the Poulsbo Police Department.

Wright recently researched eight comparable cities across the country and concluded, “No one has a 100,000-mile replacement policy.”

“City cars take a lot of wear and tear because they see no freeway time,” he said.

“They have high idle time,” Wright added, and “there’s also a lot of ‘stop and go,’ which means lots of wear and tear on brakes and bearings.”

It costs the city of Poulsbo about $40,000 for a completely outfitted Crown Victoria police car.

The city of Port Orchard will initially pay about $30,000 for each new Crown Victoria. Then it will pay about $9,000 more for equipment like light bars, radios, sirens and a computer.

Just installing the equipment will cost about $1,500.

The patrol cars costs significantly more than the detective’s vehicle, a Chevorlet Impalla that doesn’t require extra gear.

But Wright said it’s worth the cost.

“We hear a lot of positive comments about people having them in their neighborhoods,” said Townsend.

On the other hand, the consequences for unreliable vehicles can be severe, said Wright.

“There’s nothing worse,” he said, “than having a police officer responding to a priority call for help and having their vehicle break down.”

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